Wessels' golden form keeps Notts in touch
Nottinghamshire 206 for 5 (Wessels 95) beat Derbyshire 179 for 7 (Madsen 65, Cross 54) by 27 runs
Riki Wessels capped a wonderful week with a career-best unbeaten 95 as Nottinghamshire won for the second time in 24 hours to keep alive their chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast.
The South African had hit 74 off 48 balls as his side pulled off an unlikely run chase against Middlesex in the Championship on Tuesday and 66 off 31 deliveries in the T20 win at Leicester yesterday evening. His last four visits to the crease have yielded 306 runs, with a pause only to receive his county cap on the last morning of the Middlesex game.
The only regret - and it was one that he did not linger over - was that he could not finish this evening by becoming the first Nottinghamshire batsman to score a T20 century (excluding the one Alex Hales hit wearing his England colours). He was on 94 with 13 balls still left in the Nottinghamshire innings but found team-mate Steven Mullaney hogging the strike, although Mullaney's 24 off nine balls somewhat softened the blow.
He said afterwards: "I did think about it [the hundred] but after Steven missed the first two or three balls he faced I came down the pitch and said, 'mate, just try to hit it for four or six. I'm not really worried about getting a hundred myself,'
"I said 'let's just try to get 200 on the board' and to be fair that's what he did, hitting six-four-six off the last three balls. It was a perfect way to finish the innings."
Wessels hit 10 fours and four sixes, facing only 51 balls, having arrived in the third over after Phil Jaques chopped one into his stumps facing Mark Footitt. He turned his fourth ball off his hips for four and, as it happens, scored a boundary every fourth ball, more or less, for the remainder of his innings.
Two of his four sixes came off consecutive deliveries in the last of Footitt's three expensive overs, the 18th of the innings and the one that more than any ensured that Nottinghamshire would post a formidable score for the second evening running after their county record 220 against Leicestershire.
The over started with a wide, the damage from which was compounded by two more in overthrows, after which Wessels hit 19 off four deliveries, either side of another wide. James Taylor was caught at deep cover off the last ball but the over took Nottinghamshire from 155 for 3 to 178 for 4.
It took Wessels to within one hit from overtaking Lumb's 96 against Durham at Chester-le-Street in 2013 as the highest T20 score by a Nottinghamshire batsman, and another bumper Trent Bridge crowd - 9,383 this time - were willing him to do it.
Chris Read faced two balls and was out, and poor Mullaney found himself jeered after swinging and missing at his first three balls from Mark Turner, albeit one of them called wide. Undeterred, he smacked the next one over cover for six and stole the strike with a single.
There was an ironic cheer when Wessels at last got the strike back three balls into the final over, but there was clearly no thought from either batsman other than what was best for the team. Wessels drove, took the single on offer, and watched from the other end as Mullaney finished with a flourish.
Derbyshire, whose wretched season shows little sign of improving, were 40 compared with the home side's 58 after the Powerplay overs and had lost Stephen Moore to a farcical run out and Chesney Hughes to a superb middle-stump yorker from Luke Fletcher, from which point the required rate never fell below 12. Marcus North, their one real hope of changing the picture rapidly, fell for six when he tried to chip Samit Patel into a gap, instead finding that man Wessels at long-on, where he moved well to take a good low catch.
Wayne Madsen and Gareth Cross played well, adding 103 in 53 balls for the fourth wicket, but meritorious a partnership though it was, it was not enough to create any realistic possibility of an upset. Cross made 54 from 39 balls before hitting Fletcher to Taylor at extra cover, Madsen 65 off 36 before he was caught square on the offside by Jaques off Harry Gurney, who not for the first time was Nottinghamshire's best bowler.
The purple patch Wessels is enjoying could not have come at a more timely moment for Nottinghamshire, given the arm injury suffered by Lumb, who is one of the county's mainstays in the Twenty20 game but probably will not be fit until the last two group matches at the earliest.